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Psychotropic drug prescribing in a group practice was studied retrospectively. Approximately two-thirds of patients considered to have psychosocial problems were being treated with psychotropic drugs. Compared with the remaining patients with psychosocial problems not prescribed psychotropic medication these patients were more likely to be older, to have no children in the household and to have a past history of physical illness but were less likely to have an acute physical problem or to have a social factor contributing to their mental problem. Sedative and antidepressant drugs were prescribed with similar frequency for all age groups but 75% of hypnotic drugs were prescribed for the elderly.
The study provides evidence that while a high proportion of patients with psychosocial problems receive a prescription for a psychotropic drug, general practitioners are discriminating in their prescribing.